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TYLA Director Spotlight: Josué Galván

Sat, 11/09/2019 - 23:01

Editor’s Note: In this blog series, we are getting to know the members of the Texas Young Lawyers Association Board of Directors. TYLA, commonly called the “public service arm” of the State Bar of Texas, works to facilitate the administration of justice, foster respect for the law, and advance the role of the legal profession in serving the public. All TYLA programs are accomplished through the volunteer efforts of its board and committee members, with the cooperation of local affiliate young lawyers associations. Learn more at tyla.org.

Name: Josué Galván

Firm: Jackson Walker LLP

Area of Law You Practice: Civil Commercial Litigation

Position Held in TYLA: District 18, Place 1 Director

How did you get involved in bar service?

Encouragement from mentors and friends.

What is your favorite TYLA project and why?

I Was the First. You Can Be a Lawyer Too! (See http://iwasthefirst.tyla.org/.) As a first-generation lawyer, it is refreshing and encouraging to see stories of monumentally successful first-generation lawyers highlighted and celebrated.

What tips can you give to other attorneys to manage stress?

Make quality time with your inner circle a priority—it’s critical to keep you grounded and to remind you that there’s more to life than work.

What do you do in your spare time?

True crime podcasts and documentaries, going to concerts.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I play piano and drums.

Free legal help available for veterans during Texas Veterans Legal Aid Week

Fri, 11/08/2019 - 09:00

Veterans across Texas can receive free legal help as part of Texas Veterans Legal Aid Week from November 10 to 16.

Texas Veterans Legal Aid Week is a statewide effort in honor of Veterans Day and coordinated by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, or TAJF. Legal aid providers, local bars, law school, and pro bono attorneys will provide services to qualifying veterans at clinics across the state.

“We thank the Texas Legislature for providing funding for veteran legal services, as well as the Texas Access to Justice Commission and State Bar of Texas who help raise funds through an annual gala,” said Betty Balli Torres, executive director of TAJF, in a news release.

Legal aid organizations and pro bono lawyers are able to provide legal representation to veterans with civil legal problems, including denial of critical medical care, problems receiving benefits, legal issues related to disabilities, family law matters arising from deployment, and other issues that may occur due to a veteran’s absence from home during military service.

Additionally, this year TAJF’s Remembering Our Heroes campaign will be featured as part of a presentation during the football game between Baylor and Oklahoma on November 16 in Waco. The Baylor Law Veterans Clinic will also be recognized during the game. The campaign, started in 2017, benefits the Joe Jamail Endowment for Veteran Legal Services, an endowment fund created to ensure the justice system is fairly and equitably accessible to Texas veterans and named in honor of the late Houston lawyer and U.S. veteran.

Additional events have been scheduled prior to and after the week. For a list of events, go to texaslawhelp.org/tvlaw-2019.

For veterans who are unable to attend a Texas Veterans Legal Aid Week event, the Texas Legal Services Center will host live online chats from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from November 11 to 15 to assist with legal questions. Assistance is also provided at 800-622-2520, option 2.

TAJF provided $6.7 million in two-year grants this year to 13 nonprofit organizations that provide free legal services. In 2018, TAJF grantees helped nearly 9,000 veterans obtain access to the justice system.

For more information about TAJF, go to tajf.org.

Austin Adoption Day celebrates 23 new families

Thu, 11/07/2019 - 14:00

Thirty-nine children became part of 23 families on November 7, 2019, at the 18th Annual Austin Adoption Day at Gardner-Betts Juvenile Justice Center.

Along with more than a dozen attorneys, Chief Justice Jeff Rose, Justice Chari Kelly, and Justice Gisella Triana, all of the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin, plus many other Travis County judges volunteered their time to create forever families for the 39 children.

“The real stars of Adoption Day are the families,” said attorney Denise Hyde, chair of the Austin Bar Association’s Adoption Day Committee, in a press release. “They have opened their hearts and their homes to create new families.”

The theme of the 18th Austin Adoption Day was “There’s No Place Like Home,” and included games, food, giveaways, and magic shows for children of all ages.

Austin Adoption Day is presented as a partnership between the Austin Bar, Austin Bar Foundation, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, and CASA of Travis County with the assistance of Travis County Juvenile Probation, Partnerships for Children, the Travis County Office of Child Representation, and the Travis County Children’s Protective Services Board.

For more information about the Austin Bar Association, go to austinbar.org.

Texas attorney launches new art and music experience in Austin

Thu, 11/07/2019 - 09:30

Texas attorney Thomas J. Henry will launch “Austin Elevates,” a community art and music experience on November 8-9 in Austin.

The event will benefit local nonprofit organizations the SAFE Alliance, Superhero Kids, and St. David’s Foundation Community Fund.

“Austin continues to be one of our nation’s most popular destinations to experience the best in art and music,” Henry said in a news release. “With this event, I hope to foster more unique talent in order to further elevate the Austin community and support the amazing nonprofits making a cultural difference every day.”

The festivities begin with an unveiling of a new mural dedicated to Texas by contemporary street artist Alec Monopoly from 7 to 10 p.m. on November 8 at Parlor and Yard.

On November 9, a special benefit concert featuring performances by Kygo and Daddy Yankee will be held at the Austin360 Amphitheater at the Circuit of The Americas.

Free tickets for the public to the art dedication and the concert are sold out, but ticket packages at various price points for the concert are still available. All donated proceeds from the event will support the participating nonprofit organizations. For more information, go to austinelevates.com.

State Bar of Texas Women and the Law Section announces writing competition

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 15:00

The State Bar of Texas Women and the Law Section is calling for Texas law students to participate in its 2020 Texas Law Student Writing Competition.

The winning entrant will receive the 2020 Harriet E. Miers Writing Competition Award and $1,000 payable toward law school-related educational expenses. The second place finisher will receive $500 toward law school-related educational expenses. The two essays may be published in the section’s newsletter.

Essays should be no more than 2,500 words and should identify and analyze a legal challenge for women in Texas and/or in the United States based on recent news reports. The entry—written in a newspaper op-ed fashion—should define what the challenge is, how are women harmed, what is/are relevant law(s), and how the challenge should be addressed.

The submissions will be evaluated based on legal reasoning, readability, thoroughness, timeliness of topic, organizational structure, Bluebook citation, and grammar.

Students must submit entries by February 28, 2020, to Nicondra Chargois-Allen, Women and the Law Section chair, by email at sbotwomenandthelaw@gmail.com with the subject line “WAL Student Writing Competition.”

TYLA Director Spotlight: Katie Fillmore

Sat, 11/02/2019 - 23:01

Editor’s Note: In this blog series, we are getting to know the members of the Texas Young Lawyers Association Board of Directors. TYLA, commonly called the “public service arm” of the State Bar of Texas, works to facilitate the administration of justice, foster respect for the law, and advance the role of the legal profession in serving the public. All TYLA programs are accomplished through the volunteer efforts of its board and committee members, with the cooperation of local affiliate young lawyers associations. Learn more at tyla.org.

 

Name: Katie Fillmore

Firm: Butler Snow LLP

Area of Law You Practice: Product liability defense and commercial litigation

Position Held in TYLA: District 8, Place 2 director; Co-chair of Online Member Services

How did you get involved in bar service?

I was in the LeadershipSBOT class of 2011-2012 and started on the Austin Young Lawyers Association Board of Directors early in my career.

What is your favorite TYLA project and why?

The Choice (https://tyla.org/resource/the-choice/). We spent a lot of time putting it together last year, and I’m excited to launch it in classrooms across the state.

What tips can you give to other attorneys to manage stress?

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Try a meditation app like Headspace to learn how to clear your mind of unhelpful stressors and incorporate that mindfulness in your day-to-day life.

What do you do in your spare time?

What spare time? (Kidding.) I enjoy jogging and outdoor activities.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I graduated law school at age 23—initially I was a Texas really young lawyer.

Anything else that you wish to share?

I’ll use this as a platform to share the very important announcement that it is pronounced “T.Y.L.A.” and not “Ty-la.”

Texas Bar Journal Must-Reads for November

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 08:29

Check out the TBJ staff’s must-reads for the November issue for in-depth articles exploring forensics, ethics, and how AED training came in handy at one recent investiture. And don’t forget to catch up on the latest Movers and Shakers, Memorials, and Disciplinary Actions.

The Texas Forensic Science Commission
Oversight and the road map to admissibility of forensic evidence in Texas.
By Lynn Garcia and Leigh Savage

The Texas Junk Science Writ
A look six years in.
By Kirk Cooper

The Texas Lawyer’s Creed 30 Years Later
A renewed focus on the conduct, behavior, and credibility of the legal profession.
By Suzanne Mann Duvall

Be Prepared
A Scout troop, three lawyers, a priest, and a state senator save a life at a judicial investiture.
By Charles Spain

Author John Grisham talks about his latest legal thriller

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 16:54

Commercial litigator Talmage Boston sat down with attorney and bestselling author John Grisham in Dallas to talk about his new book, The Guardians, and the writing process behind it. The interview was conducted before a live audience for the Dallas Museum of Art Arts & Letters Live series and took place a day before Grisham delivered the keynote address at the Texas Access to Justice Foundation 35th Anniversary Dinner in Austin.

Best known for his legal thrillers such as The Firm and A Time to Kill, Grisham is also an advocate for access to justice, raising awareness about the importance of justice for all—even for those who can’t afford an attorney. The Texas Access to Justice Foundation, which was founded in 1984 by the Texas Supreme Court, administers funding for civil legal aid for indigent Texans. Since its inception, the foundation has granted nearly $770 million to legal aid organizations across Texas.

For more information about the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, go to tajf.org. Listen to the podcast of Boston and Grisham here.

New Texas lawyers to be sworn in November 18

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 13:00

The State Bar of Texas’ newest attorneys will be officially sworn in November 18 at the State Bar of Texas New Lawyers Induction Ceremony in Austin.

Those who passed the July 2019 Texas Bar Examination are eligible to be inducted at the event, which will be at 10 a.m. at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin. Doors open at 9 a.m.

Parking options
• State Visitors Lot—1201 San Jacinto, between 12th and 13th streets
• University of Texas Parking Trinity Garage—1815 Trinity Street, between Trinity Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard
• University of Texas Parking Health Center Garage—1601 Trinity Street, between 15th and Trinity streets

When sharing photos on social media during the event, make sure to use the hashtag #NewTXLawyer. If you can’t attend the event, you can follow along live on the State Bar’s Facebook page.

If you have any questions, contact the State Bar Membership Department at 800-204-2222, ext. 1383, or 512-427-1383.

Stories of Recovery: How I made it

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 10:28

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on April 21, 2014.

Editor’s note: TLAP offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance use or mental health issues. Call TLAP at 1-800-343-8527 (TLAP) or find more information at tlaphelps.org.

Even as a kid I identified with that cartoon character who walked around with a little black cloud over his head. I was depressed and life was depressing. So much so that I clearly needed help—and was lucky enough to be sent for counseling early in my life.

I learned that it was not my life circumstances, but my ability to cope with life. And that I had to take responsibility for dealing with the depression. So, I have for most of my life since I was in college had a counselor, a paid counselor. You can’t talk about this stuff just to friends. They’re not equipped. Every counselor has been wise—a reality check—and loving.

I have had long periods when depression has not been a problem, when I have been happy, competent, and productive. And I have had all too brief periods when I was wildly happy, super competent, and amazingly productive—being a little manic once in a while can help you get a lot done.

It was not until early in my law practice that I had a major depressive episode characterized by utterly crippling panic. I had to get out of my head—literally—and made a serious suicide attempt. Even after a month of hospitalization I thought my mind would never work again. But I had read enough while there to diagnose myself as manic-depressive and begged for lithium, and it worked.

With the knowledge that it was a “chemical imbalance,” I knew I not only needed medication but had to keep taking it. I refused to let the MDs tell me how I was supposed to be feeling and insisted on changes when new meds didn’t work.

After Prozac came along, I had decided it was party time—I could drink again. That, of course, quickly required more medication. The anxiety side of my depression worsened. The procrastination became deadly. I started falling down, physically and professionally.

It was not until I quit drinking that I got sane. I have been blessed for many years with a psychiatrist who is also a loving therapist. She suggested I might not be ready to quit my hourlong biweekly sessions until I quit drinking. Through the grace of God and the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, I am grateful to say I have now been sober for 11 years.

It wasn’t just quitting drinking—although that’s absolutely necessary—that got me sane. I had to quit my profoundly negative way of thinking.* I had gotten in the habit of expecting the worst of other people and getting it. Of expecting the best of myself and hating myself for not becoming the lawyer I thought I should have been. I was miserable.

Beyond the support of medication and the healing of wise counsel, changing my thinking has been the third solid leg of real sanity and peace. I have had to learn to recognize when it is just the depression talking, i.e. when my brain is lying to me, or when it is just “stinkin’ thinkin’,” as the program calls it. Is it depression or just plain old self-pity? Either way the cure is the same—changing my perception—recognizing that the trouble I am seeing is not necessarily real.

I have learned to forget about the “parade of horribles” and to just be grateful. To be compassionate, especially to myself. To be patient. Kind. Strong. To be here now. And I have become the lawyer I have always wanted to be.

*Science has gone a long way in explaining exactly how and why our thinking creates our emotions and well-being. Highly recommended: the movie What the Bleep Do We Know?, neuropharmacologist Candace Pert’s Molecules of Emotion, and cell biologist Bruce Lipton’s The Biology of Belief.

Free CLE webinar on November 7 to train attorneys to assist veterans

Tue, 10/29/2019 - 07:00

Just ahead of Veterans Day, the Texas Legal Services Center will host a live webinar and Q&A to train lawyers to work with low-income veterans on discharge upgrades and military records corrections.

The webinar, “Assisting Our Texas Veterans: Discharge Upgrades and the Correction of Military Records,” will take place from 1 to 2:15 p.m. CST on November 7. It is accredited for 1.25 hours of continuing legal education. Attorneys can register here.

“After completing this CLE, expect to have an understanding of the financial, economic, and social impact of a less than honorable discharge characterization,” according to the course description. “You will understand the process, legal standards, and administrative boards that evaluate and render decisions on discharge upgrade applications. You’ll learn the devastating effects of post-traumatic stress syndrome, how PTSD impedes access to benefits, and how attorneys can best communicate with those afflicted.

“But most importantly, this CLE is a first step in a journey you may choose to pursue: Donating your legal talents and time to serving our friends and neighbors who served our country.”

Attorney Tim Gasaway, who manages Texas Legal Services Center’s veterans legal assistance program, will host the webinar. The program works with Texas veterans and their families to help with civil legal concerns common to veterans as they transition to civilian life.

Jerry and Sherri Alexander: pro bono heroes

Mon, 10/28/2019 - 13:08

Hero: /hiro/: a person who is admired for achievements and noble qualities. Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

By the definition above, it is easy to see why we chose the theme of “Not All Heroes Wear Capes” for this year’s Equal Access to Justice Campaign. In this endeavor, our EAJ heroes are admired not for their achievements, but for their commendable quality of giving back. To generously give to others is a gracious trait—whether that giving is in the form of donating pro bono hours or by generously contributing to this year’s Equal Access to Justice Campaign in the amount of $25,500—which is exactly what Jerry and Sherri Alexander have done.

Throughout the Alexanders’ long history of service to the Dallas legal community, they have given both time and monetary donations. Sherri is a prominent health care lawyer and a partner in the Polsinelli firm, and Jerry is president and a shareholder at Passman & Jones, a former president of the Dallas Bar Association (the 107th president), and presently the chair of the board of the State Bar of Texas.

With this year’s generous gift, the Alexanders have donated more than $138,376 to legal aid for the poor since 2006, along with a $50,000 pledge to the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, or DVAP, Endowment.

Without heroes like this, DVAP would not be able to provide free legal aid to the poor in Dallas, support its 16-member staff and over 3,000 volunteers, and offer legal clinics to advise and represent clients, which it has done since 1982.

So in all of their charitable giving, why do they choose to support DVAP?

“One of the reasons we support DVAP is because of their effort in providing attorneys for litigants in civil matters who cannot afford representation, such as the monthly Prove-Up Clinics held at the courthouse where volunteer attorneys meet their clients to prove up their cases, and receive free legal assistance,” Sherri said. “Citizens of Dallas think of the courthouse, which has courts and judges and lawyers in it, as a place to go to look for help—a good and hopeful thing for all of us. DVAP nurtures that.”

Every year, DVAP recruits attorneys and other volunteers to staff legal intake clinics and accept cases for full representation. DVAP puts on many CLE events each year to train all these volunteers and raises $1 million every year to keep it all going.

“I am always impressed that so many attorneys in Dallas step up to do good works through DVAP each year, whether they are volunteering their time or donating funds to support the operations of DVAP,” Jerry said.

“In addition, as chair of the board of the State Bar of Texas this year, I and all members of the board have been charged with focusing on ‘attorney wellness.’ The Texas Young Lawyers Association has attorney wellness as one of its main focuses this year. The reason is it is estimated that fully 30% of the attorneys presently practicing suffer from depression and depression-related illnesses 
at any given time. What attorneys who take a pro bono case find is it gives them a lift and makes them feel better about themselves and what they do. Triple win. Win for anyone who makes a contribution, win for the person who needs representation, win for the attorney who is helping someone who really needs an attorney.”

The commitment of these Dallas legal heroes to the Equal Access to Justice Campaign is impressive. Since 1997, the DBA and Legal Aid have joined forces to raise money for the program, with Dallas lawyers donating almost $14 million. Many thanks to Jerry and Sherri for their support and for continuing to be pro bono heroes!

DVAP is a joint pro bono program of the DBA and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas. The program is the only one of its kind in Texas and brings together the volunteer resources of a major metropolitan bar association with the legal aid expertise of the largest and oldest civil legal aid program in North Texas. For more information, or to donate, go to www.dallasvolunteerattorneyprogram.org.

This article, which was originally published in the November 2019 edition of the Dallas Bar Association’s Headnotes, has been edited and reprinted with permission.

Michelle Alden is the director of the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program. She can be reached at aldenm@lanwt.org.

 

 

 

 

TYLA leads charge for Halloween Blood Drive

Mon, 10/28/2019 - 11:00

The Texas Young Lawyers Association, or TYLA, is making a push for blood donations during the month of October. TYLA will be hosting Barristers Out for Blood drives at different locations across the state.

Donors are encouraged to participate by posting and using the hashtag #barristerblooddrive.

TYLA will be hosting these events with the Dallas Bar Association, Hunton Andrews Kurth, San Antonio Young Lawyers Association, and Texas A&M University School of Law:

• October 28 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Texas A&M University School of Law Conference Center, 1515 Commerce St., Fort Worth.
• October 31 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Bexar County Courthouse, 100 Dolorosa, San Antonio. Appointments can be made at southtexasblood.org/schedule-appointment.
• October 31 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at George Allen Dallas County Civil Court, 600 Commerce St., Dallas.
• October 31 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Harris County Civil Court of Law, 201 Caroline St., Houston.
• October 31 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Belo Mansion, 2101 Ross Ave., Dallas.

Donations can also be made at the following locations:

In Austin, San Antonio, and surrounding areas:
• American Red Cross, 2218 Pershing Dr., Austin
• South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, 8500 Village Dr., Ste. 102, San Antonio
• South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, 10555 Culebra, Ste. 107, San Antonio
• South Texas Blood & Tissue Center—Donor Pavilion, 6211 I-10 W at First Park Ten, San Antonio
• South Texas Blood & Tissue Center —Shavano Donor, 4079 N. Loop 1604 W, Ste. 102, San Antonio
• South Texas Blood & Tissue Center—Southeast Donor Room, 3158 SE Military Dr., Ste. 104, San Antonio
• South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, 651 I-35 Business Loop, Ste. 830, New Braunfels
• We Are Blood, 4300 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin
• We Are Blood—Round Rock Donor Center, 2132 N. Mays St., Round Rock
• We Are Blood—South Austin Donor Center, 3100 W. Slaughter Ln., Austin

In East Texas:
• The Blood Center —East Texas, 3520 N. University Dr., Nacogdoches
• The Blood Center—Lufkin, 202 S. Franklin St., Lufkin
• Carter BloodCare, 3080 N. Eastman Rd., Ste. 112, Longview
• Carter BloodCare, 3305 NE Loop 286 E, Paris
• Carter BloodCare, 815 S. Baxter Ave., Tyler

In Houston and surrounding areas:
• Bill T. Teague Neighborhood Donor Center, 1400 La Concha Ln., Houston
• The Blood Center—Baytown, 5010 Garth Rd., Ste. 210, Baytown
• The Blood Center—Champions, 6935 FM 1960 Rd. W, Ste. A, Houston
• The Blood Center—Clear Lake, 1153 Clear Lake City Blvd., Houston
• The Blood Center—Conroe, 2125 TX-336 Loop, Conroe
• The Blood Center—Cy-Fair, 11811 FM 1960 Rd. W, Ste. 120, Houston
• The Blood Center—Cypress, 15050 Fairfield Village Square Dr., Ste. 105, Cypress
• The Blood Center—Humble/Kingwood, 9616 FM 1960 Bypass Rd. W, Humble
• The Blood Center—Katy, 1575 S. Grand Pkwy., Ste. 600, Katy
• The Blood Center—Pasadena, 5124 Fairmont Pkwy., Pasadena
• The Blood Center—Pearland, 9223 Broadway St., Ste. 119, Pearland
• The Blood Center—Westchase, 10001 Westheimer Rd., Ste. 2117, Houston
• The Blood Center—The Woodlands, 3091 College Park Dr., Ste. 130, Conroe
• Eileen Murphree McMillin Blood Center at Houston Methodist Hospital, 6565 Fannin St., Fondren Building, 1st Floor, Rm. F104
• MD Anderson Blood Center, 2555 Holly Hall St., Houston
• MD Anderson Cancer Center, Main Building, Floor 2 near Elevator D, 1515 Holcombe Blvd., Houston

In North Texas:
• Carter BloodCare, 3955 Belt Line Rd., Addison
• Carter BloodCare, 1328 W. McDermott Dr., Ste. 250, Allen
• Carter BloodCare, 4780 Little Rd., Arlington
• Carter BloodCare, 1731 W. Airport Fwy., Bedford
• Carter BloodCare, 4201 Gaston Ave., Ste. 110, Dallas
• Carter BloodCare, 12829 Preston Rd., Ste. 427, Dallas
• Carter BloodCare, 2215 S. Loop 288, Denton
• Carter BloodCare, 2601 Flower Mound Rd., Flower Mound
• Carter BloodCare, 7260 Blue Mound Rd., Ste. 140, Fort Worth
• Carter BloodCare, 4995 S. Hulen St., Fort Worth
• Carter BloodCare, 4350 W. Main St., Ste. 105, Frisco
• Carter BloodCare, 6850 N. Shiloh Rd., Garland
• Carter BloodCare, 4146 S. Carrier Pkwy., Ste. 630, Grand Prairie
• Carter BloodCare, 7750 N. MacArthur Blvd., #115, Irving
• Carter BloodCare, 101 Town Center Lane, Keller
• Carter BloodCare, 920 U.S. 287 Frontage Rd., Ste. 210, Mansfield
• Carter BloodCare, 1515 Town East Blvd., Ste. 1151, Mesquite
• Carter BloodCare, 4701 W. Parker Rd., Plano
• Carter BloodCare, 116 E. I-20 Frontage Rd., Ste. 151, Weatherford
• Carter BloodCare, 206 Archway Dr., Woodway
• Coffee Memorial Blood Center, 7500 Wallace Blvd., Ste. 2149, Amarillo
• Texas Blood Institute, 3709 Gregory St., Wichita Falls

In South Texas:
• The Blood Center of Brazos Valley, 1701 Rock Prairie Rd., College Station
• South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, 1109 Sam Houston Dr., Victoria
• Vitalant, 610 N. Ed Carey Dr., Harlingen
• Vitalant, 1400 S. 6th St., McAllen

In West Texas:
• Vitalant, 1338 N. Zaragoza Rd., El Paso
• Vitalant, 424 S. Mesa Hills Dr., El Paso
• Vitalant, 2523 48th St., Lubbock
• Vitalant, 4706 N. Midkiff Rd., Ste. 20, Midland
• Vitalant, 2020 W. Beauregard Ave., San Angelo

Pro Bono Spotlight: Marlene Dougherty

Fri, 10/25/2019 - 15:00

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 21-27). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week, we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Marlene Dougherty is a solo practitioner in Brownsville.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
In 2001, I had to take a medical leave for a year and a half, and when I returned to practice, I took my first pro bono case assisting a probate judge with his client’s bankruptcy filings in Connecticut.

I also attended a CLE put on by the Connecticut Bar Association on farm workers’ rights, which led me to study immigration law. Prior to that I had only experienced immigration law from a law enforcement perspective, e.g., assignment to assist in locating undocumented workers who had fled from a worksite raid.

In 2003, on a personal level, a waitress, who served me lunch several times a week and managed the restaurant in her employer’s absence, eventually shared her immigration history and the abuse she experienced by her employer. I encouraged her to report it, but she would not.

Later that year, I relocated to South Texas in search of a warmer climate—I sure found it—and a place where I could begin the practice of immigration law. Brownsville seemed ideal as it was close to the federal district court and two immigration courts. I soon learned what it meant to practice in an area where the poverty level is one of the highest in the U.S. Because my Spanish skills were deficient, I did not apply for a position with a nonprofit as all required fluency in Spanish—my vocabulary was limited to about five words. When I opened my practice, I paid my assistant to translate for me, taking twice as long to gather even the basic facts. Later, I was surprised to learn that even some local nonprofit agencies charged more than I did for services—low bono has been my model from the outset.

My first pro bono cases were through CLINIC, a Catholic Legal Immigration Network, for cases needing legal representation at the Board of Immigration Appeals. Later, I stopped accepting pro bono through organizations as the majority of my clients were impoverished and I tended to their immigration needs.

From 2008 to 2012, I served on the American Immigration Lawyers’ Consumer Protection and Authorized Practice of Law Committee. I took on the duty for the committee to revise draft legislation for the protection of immigrants, seeking an expansion to protective statutes and criminal penalties for the unauthorized practice of immigration law. Most recently, I submitted a proposal for the revision of immigration jurisdictional statues to U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela’s office—seeking an independent immigration court separate from the U.S. Department of Justice..

Immigration law is not simply filing forms. Knowledge of the correct law to apply to the facts of a case takes a certain legal skill. The ever-changing policies of the various immigration agencies and the federal circuit courts of appeals’ interpretations, which apply to each circuit’s jurisdiction, makes immigration appellate work particularly mind-boggling.

Why is pro bono important to you?
In my practice, I have found that many undocumented immigrants are repeatedly exploited by people in the community who want low-cost employees, unauthorized practitioners who line their pockets by advancing false hopes, and unscrupulous or negligent attorneys. My practice has evolved to reviewing complex factual and legal issues in these types of cases.

What would you say to an attorney who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
Pro bono is extremely rewarding. Should you be a new attorney considering doing pro bono work, I encourage you to do so. However, I also encourage you to do so in a manner that will enable you to become financially successful. Be sure that you plan according to your lifestyle goals.

Success takes many forms; I hope that you find yours.

Pro Bono Spotlight: August Zimmerman

Fri, 10/25/2019 - 13:00

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 20-26). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week, we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

August Zimmerman is a 3L at Texas Tech University School of Law and a native of Katy. He is director of communications for the Board of Barristers, justice of Phi Alpha Delta – Sam Rayburn Chapter, and student mediator for the Alternative Dispute Resolution Clinic. Zimmerman hopes to practice with the U.S. Marines, but if he doesn’t attain that goal, he will probably go into plaintiff representation for personal injury claims.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I am starting my third year as a court-appointed special advocate, or CASA.

Why is pro bono important to you?
Pro bono is important to me because it provides an opportunity for me to use my education and experience to give back to the community. This allows me to use my time to give something back that can have a positive impact on someone else’s life.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
My pro bono work has taught me that every opportunity spent volunteering matters. It doesn’t matter if someone can only volunteer once a week or once a year. Any time spent on pro bono work is something that someone might not receive if that person did not volunteer.

What would you say to a fellow student who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
What I would say to fellow students is that, even in law school, you do have time and lawyers are in a position to be community leaders and set trends. Start now. Be an example and help your community. It may not seem like you have the time to do much but every bit helps.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
My favorite success story is the transformation of one of my CASA children. When I first met him, he was quiet and withdrawn. He had similar problems in his placement and at school. When he spoke, it was barely more than a whisper and very few words. Over our time together, he became more comfortable and talked to me more and more. We did things like play basketball together and he told me about what he wanted to be when he grew up, his hobbies, types of music he liked, and more.

Free disaster legal hotline available for people affected by tornadoes, severe storms

Fri, 10/25/2019 - 11:10

The State Bar of Texas reminds residents that free civil legal resources are available to low-income individuals and families struggling to recover from the tornadoes and severe storms that affected 16 Texas counties on October 20.

The State Bar of Texas toll-free legal hotline — 800-504-7030 — connects callers with legal aid providers in their area who can help with such issues as replacing lost documents, insurance questions, landlord-tenant problems, and consumer protection matters such as price-gouging and avoiding contractor scams in the rebuilding process. The hotline can assist callers in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. People who qualify for assistance will be matched with Texas lawyers who can provide free, limited civil legal help.

Governor Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration on October 21 for the following counties: Cass, Cameron, Collin, Dallas, Ellis, Erath, Hunt, Kaufman, Lamar, Panola, Rains, Rockwall, Rusk, Tarrant, Van Zandt, and Wood.

Read the full release here.

Pro Bono Spotlight: Leslie Alvarez

Fri, 10/25/2019 - 11:00

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 20-26). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week, we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Leslie Alvarez is a 3L at St. Mary’s University School of Law and is originally from the Rio Grande Valley. She is very involved with the pro bono program at St. Mary’s and is the vice president of the Public Interest Law Section. Alvarez is working as a student attorney this semester at the St. Mary’s University Consumer Protection Civil Justice Clinic. She plans on practicing disability rights law. Alvarez is also currently working on her master’s degree in public administration.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I have been a doing pro bono since my 1L year. I am most involved with the free legal services clinics St. Mary’s provides for the community. I am the student volunteer coordinator for the Wills Clinic, Special Education Clinic, Psychiatric Advanced Directives Clinic, and Alternatives to Guardianship Clinic.

Why is pro bono important to you?
Pro bono is important to me because I came to law school to pursue my passion for service. Pro bono is a constant reminder that my work is valuable and needed.

What have you learned from doing pro bono work?
Through pro bono I have learned that there is strength in numbers. Every pro bono event consists of several law students, pro bono attorneys, and other community partners. It is amazing to see a group of very different people come together to address the needs of our underrepresented community members.

What would you say to a fellow student who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
For someone who is doing pro bono for the first time, I would tell them that the people they will meet at these events will make their experience worthwhile.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
One of my favorite pro bono success stories occurred at our Alternatives to Guardianship Clinic. This clinic serves adults with disabilities and their families in an effort to increase self-determination and independence. This is accomplished by counseling families on their alternatives to guardianship over the adult with a disability; a guardianship takes away an adult’s fundamental rights. In this particular story, we helped an adult with a disability keep their rights by setting them up with a supported decision-making agreement, through which the adult would keep their right to make decisions but would have help from their parents in making decisions. This specific client was very passionate about voting and was ecstatic that they were going to keep their right to vote. That same morning, the client was also registered to vote. For that one client, the clinic served as a life changing moment and it was incredible to be a part of that.

Pro Bono Spotlight: Taylor McConnell

Fri, 10/25/2019 - 09:00

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 20-26). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week, we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Taylor McConnell is a clerk for the Hon. Christine A. Nowak, of the Eastern District of Texas. He is a recent graduate of Baylor Law School. At Baylor, McConnell was an officer for the Baylor Military and Veterans Legal Society and the Leadership Engagement and Development, or L.E.A.D., counsel. When his clerkship ends, McConnell is unsure what area of law he wants to pursue but will continue his dedication to helping others.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I tried to do as much pro bono work as I could throughout my 2L and 3L years. I worked monthly at the Heart of Texas Veterans One Stop, represented juveniles at initial detention hearings, and drafted wills for veterans and first responders.

Why is pro bono important to you?
I value pro bono work for a couple reasons. I know the legal process can be intimidating and helping those who need it is incredibly rewarding. Also, it’s a great learning experience—you get to work along side practicing attorneys who share a passion for making a difference.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
I think I learned one of the most important lessons doing pro bono work—no matter how many cases you have, always remember that what you’re working on is likely your client’s only case. It’s not always about whether you win or lose, it’s often about showing your client that there is someone who cares and will fight with them.

What would you say to an attorney who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
Thinking about doing pro bono work? Do it! Do as much as you can, and try as many different types of pro bono as you can. Instill in yourself a culture of putting others first and you just might find that you too are benefiting from it.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
I don’t know that I have a favorite success story. But I did get to draft reciprocal wills for a military veteran and his spouse. I was able to meet with the clients at our monthly veterans clinic and I worked on their case all the way through the signing of their wills. I was even one of the signing witnesses. As a military veteran myself, it was an incredible feeling to know that they were taken care of!

Pro Bono Spotlight: Ashley De La Garza

Thu, 10/24/2019 - 15:00

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 20-26). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week, we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Ashley De La Garza is a 3L at St. Mary’s University School of Law and a native of San Antonio. She is the student coordinator for the Pro Bono Program, a student attorney for the Criminal Justice Clinic, president of the Public Interest Law Foundation, vice president of the Women’s Law Association, and a staff writer for The Scholar: St. Mary’s Law Review for Race and Social Justice. After law school, De La Garza hopes to pursue a career in criminal defense as a public defender.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I am involved in a variety of pro bono opportunities. Since my first year in law school, I was involved with the ID Recovery program at my law school. Every Friday, we assist individuals experiencing homelessness to obtain their most important documents. I have also volunteered with wills clinics and interned with the Bexar County Public Defender’s Office and the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia.

Why is pro bono important to you?
I come from a low-income family and community. It was difficult seeing my family and community struggle to access our most basic resources. Pro bono allows me to give back and restore a sense of hope to individuals. Everyone deserves an opportunity for legal assistance. Pro bono work provides low-income individuals a chance to have someone advocate for them on important issues.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
Pro bono has taught me the importance of and need for legal services. There are so many individuals in the community who are taken advantage of and have little to no resources to fight for their rights. Pro bono attorneys and law students provide access to legal services that these individuals would not normally be able to afford.

What would you say to a fellow student who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
Pro bono can be your productive break from studying and classes. Law school is very challenging, and it can be easy to forget the main reason why you attended law school. Pro bono reminds you of your overall goal. It also allows you to take what you learn in class and apply it to real clients.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
It is a great feeling when you assist someone and they are grateful no matter what the outcome is. I assisted in drafting a record sealing motion for an individual who was trying to gain access to housing but struggled because of their criminal record. Hearing their story I realized how far this individual had come and how much they longed to move on from their past. This record sealing motion was simple to draft and yet provided this person a start at a new life. We were able to get the record sealing motion granted and our client was beyond grateful. Something so small will have long-lasting results for this individual.

Pro Bono Spotlight: Ashley Rich

Thu, 10/24/2019 - 13:00

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 20-26). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week, we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Ashley Rich is a 3L at SMU Dedman School of Law and is a native of Dallas. She is a member of the mock trial team, SMU Board of Advocates, Association for Public Interest Law, Criminal Law Society, SMU Student Bar Association, and is a 1L mentor. Rich plans on practicing criminal law.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
My pro bono work has been in immigration law and the criminal justice system, and I have been involved in pro bono since my first year of law school.

Why is pro bono important to you?
Pro bono is important to me because I believe that we all have a responsibility to use our abilities to help those around us. I am very lucky to have the opportunity to study law and feel that we all should give back.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
Through doing pro bono I have learned a variety of legal skills and gained invaluable experience working with many different people on limited resources. I have also been able to meet many amazing and hardworking attorneys who have served as mentors and inspirations to me.

What would you say to a fellow student who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
Put yourself out there and go for it! Pro bono work has given me a greater sense of purpose during the times that it is easy to get bogged down by the law school workload. Additionally, the need for pro bono in your community is great. Do not feel like you are unable to do anything because you are a law student, there are plenty of opportunities for students to do good work and learn.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories
Doing pro bono work is often about celebrating the little victories. This is especially true in immigration because it is a long and complicated process. Victims of violent crime have additional hurdles, so receiving an employment authorization card for a client or having a temporary restraining order granted to protect a client from an abuser is a win.

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